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Effects of regional fast-ice and iceberg distributions on the behaviour of the Mertz Glacier polynya, East Antarctica

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An observational account of research carried out in July–August 1999 shows that grounded iceberg and related fast-ice distributions, and periodic "break-outs" of fast ice (in winter as well as at other times), have an important impact on the size and behaviour of the Mertz Glacier polynya, East Antarctica, and a smaller polynya to the east. Analysis of satellite and in situ data shows that a semi-constant "stream" of thick broken-out fast ice and other large floes from the east extends westwards from north of the glacier terminus to form a compact barrier to the net west-northwesterly export of ice formed in the polynya. An annual fast-ice promontory to the west further narrows the outlet path. As a result of this and high ice-production rates, the polynya periodically "back-fills", significantly reducing the open-water area present. Intervening "flush-outs" by synoptic storm events clear the polynya region to some extent before it back-fills again. This cycle continued from mid-March until early October in 1999, when a significant change in the regional ice drift occurred. A preliminary comparison with data from 1998 indicates that the timing and magnitude of the processes may vary interannually. Similar morphological features were also observed in 1963 (on a declassified photoreconnaissance satellite image).

Document Type: Research Article


Publication date: 2001-01-01

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  • The Annals of Glaciology is a peer-reviewed, thematic journal published 2 to 4 times a year by the International Glaciological Society (IGS). Publication frequency is determined and volume/issue numbers assigned by the IGS Council on a year-to-year basis and with a lead time of 3 to 4 years. The Annals of Glaciology is included in the ISI Science Citation Index from volume 50, number 50 onwards.

    Themes can be on any aspect of the study of snow and ice. Individual members can make a suggestion for a theme for an Annals issue to the Secretary General, who will forward it to the IGS Publications Committee. The IGS Publication Committee will make a recommendation for an individual themed Annals issue, together with a potential Annals Chief Editor for that issue, to IGS Council. The IGS Council will make the decision whether to proceed, taking into account the spread of topics and the overall capacity for publication of pages in Annals.

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